While there are dozens of best practices when it comes to maintaining a well-oiled inventory management system (hint: managing in an inventory count sheet isn't one of them), there are four foundational elements that every wholesale distributor should continuously strive to reach.
Keep in mind while these strategies may appear easy to achieve, you’ll need to automate and digitize every element of your wholesale distribution business. Paramount to this effort is inventory management software that unifies not only customer data but makes vital data points transparent to the customer.
While the work up front will be a challenge, the rewards will be reaped in the form of delighted customers who return again and again.
Automate Receiving of Inventory from Suppliers
If you digitize your purchase orders and receipt of inventory through software that helps you do so, you’ll inherently be able to reduce the amount of time from when it arrives in your warehouse to when it’s accounted for and on shelves.
Don’t rely on paper purchase orders and an employee to receive and enter that data in your warehouse. “Instead, use mobile computers with barcode scanners or RFID readers at the receiving dock to immediately identify products on arrival,” according to a Motorola report on “The Top 10 Losing Warehouse Strategies and How to Avoid Them.”
Ahead of placing an order with a vendor, make sure it can provide the appropriate labels and documentation needed to optimize the receiving process in your warehouse. When evaluating suppliers, it’s important to not only make sure its products are reliable, but its operational support is excellent as well.
Provide Real-time Visibility of Inventory in Every Channel of Sale
Whether you’re selling to consumers or buyers or both, it’s vital for sell-through to include real-time inventory numbers when your customers are on your website or B2B portal.
Instead of making inventory a mystery, tell customers exactly what you have in stock and for your transparency, you’ll be likely be rewarded in the long term as your customers will appreciate that and return to shop with you again and again.
Customers want to know how exactly how much inventory you have in stock. Don't state an item is “in-stock.” Instead, list within the product view how many you have in inventory.
Use Automation and Integrations to Optimize Processes
Software should help you automate tasks that humans are responsible for passing between one another. Automations help remove the human error when a task is passed from one department to another. Use alerts to let employees know it’s time to take action on a task.
Use integrations, such as Quickbooks or CardConnect, to seamlessly move data from one cloud-based application into your own, removing the need for dual entry of data. This saves your employees time and you money.
You’ll find fewer human errors since business-critical data is passed between the cloud-based apps that you have integrated with one another or your main software platform.
Safety in Your Warehouse is a Must
You might not think safety should be an inventory management priority, but one slip, trip or fall in your warehouse could make or break your business.
When employees are stocking inventory and using heavy equipment in your warehouse, it’s imperative that you’ve covered how to work safely with fast-moving equipment and people within your warehouse.
Be sure to follow OSHA guidelines for warehouse safety so that an employee isn’t injured. Many employers don’t realize that if another employee isn’t trained in that role, the employee’s leave of absence could slow down or halt activity in your warehouse.